The Texas legislature hasn’t been able to pass a near-total abortion ban this year, so a city council did instead. The all-male, five-member city council of Waskom, Texas, passed an ordinance on Tuesday night declaring itself a “sanctuary city of the unborn” and banning most abortion services.
The council made exceptions for pregnancies that resulted from rape or incest and that endanger the life of the pregnant person, according to KTSA, though it’s unclear how those exceptions would work. The move is reportedly unprecedented, with Waskom being the first city in Texas to pass such an ordinance.
“We decided to take things into our own hands, and we’ve got to do something to protect our cities and to protect the unborn children,” Right To Life with East Texas Director Mark Lee Dickson told KTSA.
The city council chambers broke out in applause when all five male lawmakers voted yes.
Ahead of the vote, Mayor Jesse Moore warned the city, which has about 2,000 residents, would face a lengthy lawsuit it could not afford to lose. “Most likely we will end up getting sued if this passes. It could go to the Supreme Court,” said Moore.
The Supreme Court in its 1973 landmark decision, Roe v. Wade, said states cannot outlaw abortion before viability, which can vary for different pregnancies but is generally understood to be around 24 weeks.
“We don’t have the possible millions of dollars that it would take to take it to that level,” said alderman Jimmy Dale Moore, who nevertheless voted in favor of the ordinance. “We can’t pay those kind of attorney’s fees. The city don’t have the money,” he added.
Some residents who supported the measure weren’t concerned with the legal fees because “they say God will take care of them,” according to local media.
Current Texas law bans the procedure up to 20 weeks. Texas state Rep. Briscoe Cain (R) introduced a near-total abortion ban this legislative session, but it never passed. The tanked bill would have banned abortions as early as six weeks of pregnancy — or before many people know they are pregnant. The bill failed for procedural reasons; it was assigned to a committee chaired by a Democrat.
Texas has a history of leading the way in anti-abortion restrictions, passing laws that impose complicated restrictions on abortion providers and other gestational bans over the years. The state legislature recently passed a “born alive” abortion bill, responding to a manufactured controversy about infanticide.
The nearest clinic to Waskom is in Shreveport, Louisiana. State lawmakers in Lousiana recently enacted a law banning abortion after six weeks, which hasn’t taken effect yet. Anti-abortion activists in Waskom were reportedly concerned that the law would encourage providers in Louisiana to move across the border into Texas.
In 2019, nine states passed near-total abortion bans, as Republican lawmakers have been especially emboldened given the conservative majority on the Supreme Court.